James Bain, MBA'11

Making opportunities for LGBT entrepreneurs

After earning his MBA from Chicago Booth in 2011, James Bain joined Groupon as a City Manager in charge of sales and operations of all daily deals in high profile cities such as Detroit, Minneapolis, and Toledo. There, he co-founded a LGBT employee resource group (ERG) Pride@Groupon. He is now a VP of Business Development at Parking Panda in Baltimore, MD and a Director for StartOut.org.

Tell us a little about your background.
I am currently VP of Business Development for Parking Panda, the leader in online parking reservations. Parking Panda allows drivers to find and reserve parking online, ahead of time through web and mobile applications and enables garages and lots to market their inventory through an online channel. In my current role, I manage all business development activities of the company including signing up garages and lots, partnering with major sports teams, events and venues, and running account management. I also get to go to parking conferences all over the country.

After earning my MBA from Chicago Booth in 2011, I joined Groupon as a City Manager in charge of sales and operations of all daily deals in such high profile cities as Detroit, Minneapolis, and Toledo. In addition, I worked as a Senior Manager in Sales Operations, the merchant research and lead management departments—optimizing efficiencies and shortening the sales cycle for 800 sales representatives across the US. While at Groupon, I co-founded the LGBT employee resource group (ERG) Pride@Groupon, using a $20k budget to launch multiple successful social media campaigns, and earning over $300k in additional revenues for the company. I was fortunate to be honored by the HRC of Chicago with the Corporate Equality Award at their annual gala.

Outside of the tech world, I enjoy satisfying a deep wanderlust, being outside, and NPR. I am also on the national Board of Directors for the non-profit StartOut.org and am currently launching their Chicago chapter.

Although my home and heart are in Chicago, I spend most of my time these days in DC, commuting up to Baltimore where my company is based.

How do you stay involved with UChicago these days?
I am very active within the Booth community. I do a lot of application preparation, especially for LGBT applicants. I also come back to campus to serve as an alumni judge, panelist, interviewer, and whatever else I'm asked to do!

Are you currently involved with any LGBT-related activities?
YES! I am proud to serve on the national board of StartOut.org. We are focused on creating a benevolent ecosystem to give a leg up to LGBT entrepreneurs. We have some great events in Chicago - check it out at startout.org.

Were you involved in LGBT programming on campus while a student? What was your experience as an LGBT student on campus like?
Very much so. I'm quite proud of my achievements as co-chair of the LGBT group at Booth. I started the first big LGBT event, the now-famous Pink Party, with over 500 people in attendance our first year. I also persuaded the admissions office to add a self-identifying question to the Booth application to help track and attract LGBT applicants. Along with my fellow co-chairs, I was awarded the Diversity Award for my graduating class.

How did you get involved with the LGBT entrepreneurship community? What have you learned? What experiences have surprised you?
I first met the founders of StartOut as an MBA student at the national conference Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA). I think it's very important that LGBT people are out and proud in every sector of the business community. Although tech companies and start-ups are known for being diverse meritocracies, there are suprisingly few of us in visible positions.

Do you want to share any stories about your time as an alum or student? If not, please share a fun fact about yourself.
I had a bit of a reputation at school for "forcing" people out of the closet, but I prefer to think of it as coaching out. :-) I approached a few different people with a script similar to "Hi! I'm James. Have you heard about the gay group? We'd love to have you. Can we sit down and discuss when you'll be coming out?"